New York Stage and Film has committed $100,000 to their new NEXUS Initiative that brings together 20 multihyphenate artists to explore the question “where does story exist at the intersection of stage and film?” Through this inaugural program, NYSAF will offer direct support to these artists – each participant receives $5,000 and will take part in a series of conversations focused on the needs of new and expanded forms of storytelling that resonate with our time.
In order to increase access to the program and respond to the ideas of a broad range of storytellers, these 20 participants were recommended by 14 leading artists of stage and film for their accomplishments in exploring new forms of storytelling. The leading artists selection committee includes Ayad Akhtar, César Alvarez, Luis Castro, Elsie Choi, Marcus Gardley, Zach Helm, Beth Henley, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Patricia McGregor, Lila Neugebauer, Madeline Sayat, Shelby Stone, Regina Taylor, and Chay Yew.
“Bringing artists together in community is a guiding principle for New York Stage and Film and the motivation behind Nexus,” said Artistic Director Chris Burney. “We wanted NYSAF to be able to engage artists in an entirely new way, so NEXUS provides them direct financial support and also a forum to chart new ways to make and share stories. We are thrilled that so many inspiring creative thinkers from across the country will be a part of it – and we look forward to building even newer, more flexible processes for their work.”
Board President Barbara Manocherian added, “NYSAF’s response to the pandemic has been to continue its practice of putting artists first, and to support their work in new, flexible, and meaningful ways. NEXUS is a perfect example of that. We are so grateful to everyone participating, for the leading artists that made recommendations, and to NYSAF’s Board of Directors, who wholeheartedly endorsed this exciting investment in new work.”
The Nexus participants are Garrett Allen, Ace Anderson, Brittany Bland, Elisa Bocanegra, Nichole Canuso, Sam Chanse, Shayok Misha Chowdhury, Kristiana Rae Colon, Giselle Durand, Jennifer Gibbs, Alex Hossain, Kimille Howard, Joanna Castle Miller, Tara Moses, Erlina Ortiz, Mason Alexander Park, Phanesia Pharel, Justen Ross, Gabriela Sanchez and Vera Starbard.
Garrett Allen (they/them) is a Black, queer interdisciplinary artist and director working primarily in performance, video, and installation. Their work navigates the recent, dramatic changes in the ways we consume, perceive, process, identify, and, ultimately, empathize. They create pieces that are urgent, emotionally vulnerable, unapologetic, and visceral; aiming to combat spectator (and general worldly) passivity by collaboratively creating sensorial and actively engaging experiences. Their recent projects include body100 with collaborator Nazareth Hassan (Prelude Festival), co-creating BLK MLK (blackmilk) with poet Kyle Lopez (Spectrum NYC), directing …When The World Is No Longer: by Dante Green (Ars Nova ANTFEST, Polyphone Festival), and devising/creating We Were All Rooting For You (Flamboyan). Their video and performance art works have been exhibited at The Invisible Dog, School of Visual Arts NYC, Harvard, Knockdown Center, Signal Gallery, The Deep End, and You Are Here. They are the co-founder of LEGACY: A Black Queer Production Collective. They are currently pursuing their MFA in Directing at Yale School of Drama.
Ace Anderson works as a professional actor, graphic designer, and photographer. He is a member of the outstanding league of elite Dallas actors known as the Brierley Resident Acting Company at the Tony Award-winning Dallas Theater Center. He is a 2013 alum of Southern Methodist University with a BFA in Acting from Meadows School of The Arts. After working at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra as the lead Graphic designer for a couple of years, he started his own brand design & development company called The Striped Heart. His primary goal is to build a blockbuster film acting career to create an influential platform to revolutionize the way humans tell stories.
BRITTANY BLAND is a storyteller who has dedicated her life to the proliferation of empathy. As a projection designer for the stage, she has designed for theater, dance, and opera. Her work as a video artist often explores the ideas of legacy, memory, and empathy. Originally from Atlanta GA, she holds a BA in Technical Theater and Production from Catawba College and MFA in Design from the Yale School of Drama. Her recent design credits include Cuttin Up (Classical Theater of Harlem), Rage (Quinnipiac University), Florencia en el Amazonas (Shubert Theater), Alice (Yale University Theater), Black History Museum (Here Arts Center), Twelfth Night (Yale Repertory Theater).
Elisa Bocanegra is an actor and producer who has now added directing to her credits. She is the founder of HERO Theatre in Los Angeles. She was a TCG Leadership U grant recipient which provided her the opportunity to be part of the Leadership Team at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for two seasons. Her directing credits include TROY, where she teamed up with homeless shelters around Los Angeles to raise awareness of the crisis. Other directing credits include The Floating Island Plays by Eduardo Machado and a new project called Nuestro Planeta, which focuses on educating Latinx audiences about environmental justice within the Americas. As an actor, she has performed at many theatres including The Goodman Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company, South Coast Rep, Center Theatre Group, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and The Williamstown Theatre Festival. Her film debut was in the Sundance Film Festival winner, Girlfight.
NICHOLE CANUSO is a choreographer and performer experimenting with the participation of audience bodies and personal narratives through a cross-pollination of artistic mediums. Canuso is dedicated to ensemble-generated processes, aiming to create connections across distances and life experiences. She believes in the power of collective action and the importance of intimate exchange. Canuso founded Nichole Canuso Dance Company in 2004 and is currently a faculty member of the MFA program at The University of the Arts / Pig Iron School for Advanced Performance Training (APT). Support for her work includes The National Endowment for the Arts, The Knight Foundation, a Bessie Shoenberg First Light Commission, The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and National Dance Projects/New England Foundation for the Arts. Presentations of her work include New York Live Arts (NYC), American Repertory Theater (MA), Los Angeles Performance Practive (CA), The International Festival for Art and Ideas (CT), Onésimo Festival (Guadalajara, Mexico) and artistic residency support includes Maggie Allessee National Center for Choreography (FL), MacDowell (NH), Millay (NY), NCCAkron (OH), Dance OMI (NY), The Orchard Project (NY) and BiLateral Residency (Budapest, Hungary). She is a 2017 Pew fellow.
SAM CHANSE’s plays include Monument, or Four Sisters (A Sloth Play); Trigger; Fruiting Bodies; and What You Are Now. A resident playwright at New Dramatists and a Lark Venturous Fellow (Trigger), her work has been developed with the Lark, The Civilians, Ars Nova, Magic Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, NAATCO, Cherry Lane, Leviathan Lab, and Ma-Yi, and is published by Kaya Press (Lydia’s Funeral Video) and TCG (The Kilroys List). A past fellow with Cherry Lane Mentor Project (The Opportunities of Extinction) and Playwrights Realm (The Other Instinct), she has also received residencies at MacDowell, Sundance Theatre Institute, Djerassi, and SPACE at Ryder Farm. She’s a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, and an alum of Ars Nova’s Play Group, The Civilians’ R&D Group, and the Lark’s New York Stage & Film Vassar Retreat. She currently writes on ABC’s “The Good Doctor”, and has taught writing and playwriting at Columbia University, NYU, University of Rochester, and elsewhere. For some years, she served as artistic director of Kearny Street Workshop.
SHAYOK MISHA CHOWDHURY is a writer, director, and many-tentacled maker. He is the creator of Vichitra, an experiment in queer South Asian imagination; recent episodes premiered at The Bushwick Starr, Ars Nova, and HERE Arts Center, where Misha is a Resident Artist. Currently a Project Number One Artist at Soho Rep, Misha is an alumnus of The Public’s Devised Theater Working Group, Soho Rep’s Writer/Director Lab, Ars Nova’s Makers Lab, New York Theatre Workshop’s 2050 Fellowship, and residencies at BRIC, The Drama League, and SPACE on Ryder Farm. Recent: MukhAgni (Under the Radar); How the White Girl Got Her Spots and Other 90s Trivia (Joe’s Pub). Upcoming: a new collaboration with Aleshea Harris (New York Theatre Workshop); Rheology (HERE Arts Center). In progress: SPEECH with Lightning Rod Special; Antioch Mass with Troy Anthony. A NYFA/NYSCA, Fulbright and Kundiman fellow, Misha has been published in The Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Asian American Literary Review, and elsewhere.
KRISTIANA RAE COLÓN is a poet, playwright, actor, educator, Cave Canem Fellow, creator of #BlackSexMatters, co-director of the #LetUsBreathe Collective, and OpenTV Screenwriting Fellow. Her play Tilikum was nominated for seven 2019 non-equity Joseph Jefferson Awards, and won three, including Best New Play. In 2017, she was awarded Best Black Playwright by The Black Mall. Past works include good friday (New Manifest ATX – 2020, The Flea Theater NYC – 2019, Oracle Productions – 2016), Tilikum (world premiere Sideshow Theater, 2018 Outstanding New Play at ALTA Awards), Octagon (world premiere Arcola Theatre, London, 2015; American premiere Jackalope Theatre, 2016), but i cd only whisper (world premiere Arcola Theatre, London, 2012; American premiere The Flea, New York, 2016). In 2013, she toured the UK for two months with her collection of poems promised instruments, winner of the inaugural Drinking Gourd Poetry Prize and published by Northwestern University Press. Kristiana is an alum of The Goodman Theatre’s Playwrights Unit where she developed her play florissant & canfield, which debuted at University of Illinois-Chicago in February 2018. She is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and one half of the brother/sister hip-hop duo April Fools. She appeared on the fifth season of HBO’s “Def Poetry Jam”. Kristiana’s writing, producing, and organizing work to radically reimagine power structures, our complicity in them, and visions for liberation. Kristiana’s current work explores Afrofuturist drama as a catalyst for social change.
GISELLE DURAND (she/her) is an emerging theatre and film director who utilizes storytelling to explore the truth and vulnerability of human connection. Set to graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a BA in Theatre Arts and emphases in Directing, Political Science, and Philosophy, Giselle recently closed Love by Kate Cortesi as the first student to direct a mainstage production for the LMU College of Communications and Fine Arts. Serving as Producing Director and Creative Director of Events for the Del Rey Players over two seasons, she focuses on the vibrancy of creative leadership through direction, design, and executive strategy. Other notable credits include the first workshop of Downstairs Neighbor written by Beth Henley (2020); The Nerd (2020); The Wolves(AD, 2019); LAUGH (ASM, 2018); Andrew Lippa’s Wild Party (2017), and The Miss Firecracker Contest (2016). Having experimented with different faculties of theatre and film, she relishes in versatility and rawness, creating art that challenges societal norms and encourages understanding.
Jennifer Gibbs is a playwright, performer, and screenwriter whose stories bridge platforms. Her work has been described as “a feast for the senses” (Time Out New York). Currently she’s collaborating on an audio-text-photography digital publication of her solo play Immortality, forthcoming from Massachusetts Review Working Titles. Jennifer’s two multiplatform series, Riot Mom and Trainhoppers, unfold across television, audio, and live landscapes (in development at social impact studio 13Exp). She recently completed a prose manuscript, O/Mother, which gives voice to the experience of serial grief (excerpted in Massachusetts Review Quarterly). She’s also developing a television series, Heartland, about our national divide. Jennifer’s plays have been presented at theaters including HERE Arts Center (HARP Artist Residency Production), the National Theater of Norway/International Ibsen Festival, Old Vic New Voices London, FringeNYC (Fringe Overall Excellence Award), Theater 167, Cherry Lane, LAByrinth, Williamstown, New Georges, and Joe’s Pub. Jennifer has received grants from the Rockefeller & Doris Duke Foundation MAP Fund and LMCC Swing Space, and a Collaboration Award from Women in the Arts & Media Coalition. She’s an Affiliated Artist at Theatre 167 and New Georges. Raised by back-to-the-land artists who taught her to drive a backhoe and brew her own kefir, Jennifer holds a BA from Harvard and an MA from NYU.
ALEEM HOSSAIN is a filmmaker, emerging media creator, and professor. He is half-South Asian (his father is a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh) and half-white (his mother hails from a New England Roman Catholic family) and this multi-racial background shapes his creative work. He wrote and directed After We Leave, a sci-fi feature film that won Best Film at Sci-Fi London. It was released theatrically in 2020 and is now streaming Amazon. Film Threat called it “a shining example of indie filmmaking at its finest.” His short film, The Thin Orange Line, premiered at Beyond Fest and mashes up the cop film genre with a (Bollywood-esque) dancing orange bear. In collaboration with Google, Harmony Labs, and Screenwriters Colony, he created No Easy Answers, a VR anti-bullying project. Aleem was selected for the initial Facebook/Oculus VR Launchpad program, where he began developing his VR docu-series, I Never Told You. Aleem is the Assistant Professor of Digital Storytelling at Occidental College.
KIMILLE HOWARD is a New York based director, deviser, writer and filmmaker. She’s an Assistant Stage Director at the Metropolitan Opera and recently worked on the new production of Porgy and Bess. She’s the newly appointed Artistic Director of the Lucille Lortel Theatre’s NYC Public High School Playwriting Fellowship. Select directing credits include: In The Open by Mona Monsour (WCSU), Soil Beneath by Chesney Snow (Primary Stages/59E59), $#!thole Country Clapback by Pascale Armand (Loading Dock Theatre), The Fellowship Plays (Lucille Lortel Theatre Foundation), and Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau (TheatreSquared). Her work has also been seen at EST, Cherry Lane Theatre, NBT, The Circle in the Square Theatre Circle Series, The Flea, The Lark, JAGFest, and NYU among others. Broadway: Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of the Temptations (Assistant Director). Recent Fellowships: New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellowship and the Manhattan Theatre Club Jonathan Alper Directing Fellowship.
JOANNA CASTLE MILLER is a playwright, producer, and satirist whose work has appeared on NBC and PBS as well as in Time, The Hill, and Funny or Die. Plays include Sh@med (Kilroys List, Jewish Plays Project), around and around and around the static sun (McNerney Prize finalist), The Storehouse, and Fox News the Musical. Short plays include The World’s Next Tooth Fairy Is Marci Peterson, The Being Heard Academy and Parasite. Joanna’s work has been developed and produced by We the Women Collective, The Jewish Plays Project, New York University, and The Valdez Theatre Conference, and her monologues have been published by Applause Books, McSweeney’s, and The Belladonna. She is currently under commission by We the Women Collective. Film/TV: Keep This Far Apart, Ash, Sorta My Thing, Christmas in Zoom Village, and Red, White, and Dad. Joanna is the founder and executive producer of Wait Don’t Leave Productions, which develops film and theatre projects related to historical memory.
TARA MOSES (she/her) is a citizen of Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, Mvskoke, director, awardwinning playwright, Producing Artistic Director of telatúlsa, co-founder and Executive Producer of #BINGE, and co-Founder of Groundwater Arts. As a playwright, her completed works include Sections, He’eo’o (Winner of the 2019 Native Storytellers Contest), Quantum (2020 and 2021 Finalist for the National Playwrights Conference), Bound (2019 Native American New Play Festival Winner), Hamlet: El Príncipe de Denmark, Don Juan, Arbeka, and Patchwork. She is a Cultural Capital Fellow with First Peoples Fund (2020); Invited Playwright with HBMG Foundation’s National Winter Playwrights Retreat (2020); fellow with the Intercultural Leadership Institute (2018/19); an observer with the SDC Foundation (18/19); fellow with the Intercultural Leadership Institute (18/19); member of DirectorsLabChicago (2018); member of the Directors Lab at Lincoln Center (2017); Alum of the Allen Lee Hughes Fellowship at Arena Stage (2015-2017); recipient of the Thomas C. Fichandler Award (2016); associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society; and Dramatists Guild member. She holds a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Tulsa and is expected to attend Brown University/Trinity Rep as an M.F.A. Candidate in Directing in the fall of 2021.
ERLINA ORTIZ is a Dominican-American playwright, performer, and theatre maker from Reading, PA based in Philadelphia. Her heartfelt and timely plays on gentrification, domestic violence, and cultural preservation have been presented with Power Street Theatre where she is proud to be Co-Artistic Director and Resident Playwright. In 2018 Her play Las Mujeres received The Bonaly Award for Creation of Community Joy and in Spring 2019 her play Morir Sonyando was nominated for six Barrymore Awards including Outstanding New Play. Erlina has received the Amtrak Writer’s residency, the Signal Fire Outpost Residency, in 2019 she gave the Keynote Address at the Delaware Writer’s Conference on the importance of nurturing your artistic community. Erlina is a recipient of the Leeway Art and Change Grant and she has taught playwriting with the University of the Arts, Power Street Theatre, and Blue Stoop phl.
Mason Alexander Park is a writer/performer best known as the first trans actor to play Hedwig in the Broadway National Tour of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Mason can be seen as Gren in the upcoming Netflix live action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop and Amazon’s Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina. They can also be found in the film Before You Know It, and such TV shows as “Broadway or Bust” and “Becoming and Artist” on PBS, or “iCarly” and “Bucket and Skinner’s Epic Adventures” on Nickelodeon. Mason was featured in the podcast musical “Loveville High” as the series’ Bowie obsessed genderqueer high schooler, Jendrix. Most recently, they starred as the Emcee in the Olney Theatre Center’s critically acclaimed production of Cabaret (for which they earned a Helen Hayes Award for Best Leading Performer in a Musical) and starred in the Pulitzer Prize winning play I Am My Own Wife at the Long Wharf Theatre.
PHANÉSIA PHAREL is a Haitian-American playwright who is currently focusing on the divine metaphysical dilemma of Black and Latinx girlhood. Generally, her plays span revolutions, islands, and Afro-Futurism. Her first play, Penelope, was selected as one of four in the nation to be workshopped at the International Thespian Festival and was subsequently published in Dramatics magazine and by Samuel French. One of her favorites, Shovel Me Away, was produced at Micro Theater Miami and received the Best Of The Best 2016 award. Her monologue, My Kid, My Life, appears in the 2015 City Theatre anthology. Her play And Other Dreams We Had was a finalist for the City Theatre National Short Playwriting award. She attends Barnard College of Columbia University where she recently won the Brandt Playwriting award and the Helen Prince Memorial Prize for excellence in dramatic composition. She is currently an Artist in Residence for New York Stage and Film, just completed the National Young Playwright Residency for the Echo Theater Company of Los Angeles and is a proud member of the Dramatist Guild of America.
JUSTEN ROSS is a black queer artist born, raised, and currently residing in Atlanta, Georgia. Actor, poet, choreographer, and musician are few of many roles that this ambitious soul takes on. This jack of all trades is dedicated to his unique power of storytelling in an effort to liberate the hearts of jurors around the globe. Ross is specifically passionate about inspiring black and brown youth to feel safe in living a life of unapologetic expression. He is currently in the final year of his acting training at The Theatre School at Depaul University where he received the honor of being a Princess Grace Scholarship Award nominee. Appearances include productions at the Alliance Theatre and August Wilson Theatre: Start Down by Eleanor Burgess, Choir Boy by Tarell Alvin McCranney, National August Wilson Monologue Competition Finalist. His constant drive to improve has followed him all the way to Chicago where he founded the Black Artists of Today, an organization dedicated to emphasizing black voices within a conservatory environment.
GABRIELA SANCHEZ, Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Power Street Theatre, has created a Womxn of Color- led multicultural theatre collective with fellow artists, culturally producing, directing and starring in several powerful new plays in the heart of el barrio. A Philadelphia native, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Theater from Temple University. Her former leadership roles include, Director of Education at Norris Square Neighborhood Project, Cultural Enrichment and Facility Manager at Taller Puertorriqueño and six years in residence at the Department of Recreation with Conflict Resolution Theater. She’s worked with Philadelphia Young Playwrights, Theatre Horizon, Arden Theatre, and more as a teaching artist. In 2020, Gabriela received a Citation from Council of the City of Philadelphia for her dedicated work to the theatrical production. Gabriela is a proud recipient of the Phenomenal Women’s Award (2020), Leeway Art and Change Grant (2016, 2019), GALAEI David Acosta Revolutionary Award (2017), Knight Foundation Emerging City Champions Fellowship (2018) and keynote speaker with Quiara Alegría Hudes at the 2018 Association for Theatre in Higher Education Conference and 2019 TCG Conference.
VERA STARBARD, T’set Kwei, is a Tlingit and Dena’ina writer and editor. She is Playwright-inResidence at Perseverance Theatre through the Andrew W. Mellon National Playwright Residency Program and Editor of First Alaskans Magazine. Vera is also a writer for the PBS Kids children’s program “Molly of Denali,” which won a Peabody Award in 2020. She has won numerous local, statewide and national individual writing and editing awards, including the Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award and Alaska Literary Award. Vera currently serves on the KTOO Board of Directors, HowlRound Theatre Commons Advisory Council, and Kachemak Bay Writer’s Conference Board, as well as serving as a founding member of Alaska Native playwright group Dark Winter Productions. Her full-length play Our Voices Will Be Heard premiered at Perseverance Theatre in 2016. It was then published in the textbook “Contemporary Plays by Women of Color” in 2017 and turned into a one-hour radio adaptation that aired nationwide in 2018.